New York Times Corrects Explosive Hillary Clinton Email Story Amid Campaign Pushback

July 25, 2015 by  
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An explosive New York Times story detailing a potential probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account unravelled quickly on Friday morning, prompting questions about how inaccurate, politically sensitive information could end up in the paper of record.

At issue was a Times breaking news alert sent out in the late hours of Thursday evening, reporting that inspectors general were asking the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into whether Clinton sent classified information from her private server. By the next day, the story had changed, slightly but significantly. The subject of the investigation wasn’t Clinton, per se, but whether she was on the receiving end of the information in question. Hours later, it changed again, this time more significantly. The Department of Justice said that the probe requested wasn’t criminal in nature, but rather investigative. And then, it grew even more complicated, with the State Department inspector general saying they didn’t even ask for an investigation at all.

As the different chapters of this in-the-weeds saga progressed, attention turned to the Times, which has been the tip of the spear in reporting on Clinton’s use of a private email account and server. Times reporter Michael Schmidt, who co-bylined Thursday’s story, also broke the news in March that Clinton had violated government protocol by exclusively using a private email account at the State Department.

In a correction appended to the Times article online, editors acknowledged having “misstated the nature of the referral” related to Clinton’s email use, which the paper had described as “criminal.” Though a Department of Justice official initially told reporters the referral was “criminal” in nature after the Times story was published, the agency reversed course and said it was not. Times editors also wrote that the referral from two inspectors general did not “specifically request an investigation” into Clinton.

By midday, the paper was under withering criticism from progressives online, who accused it of sparking a wave of outrage over ultimately faulty charges. Other nonpartisan sources were suggesting that Republicans on the Select Committee investigating the 2012 attacks on the compound in Benghazi were behind the inaccurate leak.

What leapt out when I saw NYT story was "provided by senior government official." Not "executive branch" or "Justice Dept" Meaning Congress!

— Norman Ornstein (@NormOrnstein) July 24, 2015

The Clinton campaign itself wasn’t shy about calling the story bunk, pushing back hard on the Times, demanding and receiving a revision in the piece and accusing congressional Republicans of going outside their jurisdictions to attack the former secretary of state.

The avalanche of pushback left the Times in an uncomfortable spot. The paper initially rejected calls to issue a correction. When it was later forced to do so, it seemed unwilling to completely abandon the story. By late Friday afternoon, the paper was still running a headline that labeled the investigation into Clinton’s email usage a “criminal inquiry.” Its lead sentence also still stated, “Two inspectors general have asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation.”

 A Times spokeswoman did not immediately respond to questions about whether those two elements of the story would be changed.

But even if they are, it’s unlikely that the same audience will see the updated version unless the paper were to send out a second breaking news email with its latest revisions. The Clinton story also appeared the front page of Friday’s print edition. 

For Clinton critics, the dispute over the paper’s handling of this news item still obscures the larger problem, which is that as secretary of state, she used a private email account that could have compromised sensitive government information. Indeed, lost in the back-and-forth Friday was a Wall Street Journal story that detailed how several emails containing classified information made it into her inbox. The information wasn’t classified at the time, but rather received the designation retroactively.

“None of the emails we reviewed had classification or dissemination markings, but some included IC-derived classified information and should have been handled as classified, appropriately marked, and transmitted via a secure network,” wrote Inspector General I. Charles McCullough in a letter to Congress.

The debate over the article also underscores just how delicate reporting on Clinton’s email setup has become in the early stages of the presidential campaign.

Each report drops amid a well-established narrative. Clinton is held to an unfair standard by the press and maligned by the right, supporters say. Her email use is indicative of Clintonian paranoia and a penchant for secrecy, critics counter. 

And reporters, often relying on anonymous sources, are going to face questions about the motivations of those providing information. They’re also likely to encounter intense scrutiny from pro-Clinton organizations like Correct the Record and Media Matters for America. If a story isn’t completely airtight, the campaign and such media watchdogs are sure to pick apart discrepancies, whether minuscule, or in this case, significant. Even a correction doesn’t always end the complaints. 

Correct the Record slammed the Times’ “bogus” story late Friday afternoon and suggested it fit a pattern of “thin sourcing, excess hype, and a tag-team rollout with the hyper-partisan, Republican-led House Benghazi circus.” Shortly thereafter, Media Matters Chairman David Brock wrote a letter to Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., urging him to appoint a commission to examine the reporting behind Thursday’s story and three previous Clinton reports the group has also criticized.

“David Brock is a partisan,” a Times spokeswoman responded in a statement. “It is not surprising that he is unhappy with some of our aggressive coverage of important political figures. We are proud of that coverage and obviously disagree with his opinion.”

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The Bob & Chez Show Podcast: Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones Attacks Bob Regarding the Planned Parenthood Gotcha Video, Plus Trump and Jeb Bush

July 24, 2015 by  
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Today’s topics include: Alex Jones Attacks Bob for his Planned Parenthood Article; Dan Bidondi Defends Trump’s John McCain Remarks; Ben Carson Thinks Planned Parenthood is Eliminating Black People; Trump Might Run as a Third Party Candidate; Jeb Bush’s Head Deflates, Says Medicare Should Be Phased Out; and much more.

Download the mp3 (58 minutes, 24mb)
Listen and subscribe on iTunes (it’s FREE!)
Support the show at Patreon

The Bob & Chez Show is a funny, fast-paced political podcast that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The twice-weekly podcast is hosted by Bob Cesca (Salon.com, The Huffington Post, The Daily Banter, The Stephanie Miller Show), and CNN/MSNBC producer turned writer Chez Pazienza. Follow the show at www.bobcesca.com with special thanks to April Cockerham.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.



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Google Just Took Another Small Step Toward Replacing Your Brain

July 22, 2015 by  
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We’ve known for years that search engines like Google change how humans remember information – so what happens when we use online services to keep track of where we’ve been in life?

Google on Tuesday announced a new update to its Maps program which will allow people to visualize all of the places they’ve visited, so long as they were carrying smartphones at the time. It’s called “Your Timeline,” and it’s currently rolling out for Android devices and desktop browsers, meaning users should be able to access it over the next couple of days if they can’t already. A spokeswoman for Google told The Huffington Post that there are “no specific plans” for iOS. 

Your Timeline displays the route you took to a given location, provided you had your location services turned on, as well as any pics you snapped that day, if you’re a Google Photos user. You can also look through your history to see where you were on a given day, month or year.

For example, say you’ve taken a June vacation to New York City. You’re staying at a Marriott in Manhattan. You wake up at 7 a.m., walk to a nearby Starbucks, happen to run into Susan Sarandon on the street, snap a selfie with her, take the subway to the Museum of Natural History, grab a burger at McDonald’s nearby (you can do better, but you’re starving) and taxi back to the hotel for a nap. If you’ve opted into the Your Timeline feature, you could, in theory, revisit that day years down the line, see exactly where you went, ?look at your smiling mug next to Sarandon’s and regret once more that you didn’t try a more adventurous lunch spot.

The feature is entirely opt-in right now, meaning you don’t have to use it, and Google says it’s “private and visible only to you.” If you want, you can delete certain days — maybe you have a bad break-up — or your entire history.

That last part might raise an interesting question. Remember “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” the Michel Gondry flick where Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet get a weird sci-fi procedure to forget their relationship ever happened? 


Memories disappear in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” (Source)

 

Well, deleting a “day” from your Google timeline isn’t the same as scrubbing your brain, of course, but consider how our gadgets have already started to meld with our brains in weird ways. As Clive Thompson explored in his book Smarter Than You Think, our phones, with their easy access to search engines, have already become a kind of memory partner for us. Much the same as you’d ask your human partner about the name of “that movie we saw a few months ago,” you “ask” your phone to quickly find information for you.  

Research has shown that relying on search engines for information leads us to remember fewer facts for ourselves. In practice, that might mean that you no longer bother to memorize state capitals or how many cups are in a quart, but it begs the question: What happens when we rely on much the same technology from Google to track where we’ve been in our own lives via location data and automatically tagged photographs? 

Of course, any freakouts about this particular software may not be totally warranted: iOS has offered similar, if shallower, tracking functionality for years, and many of us already manually catalogue our lives on the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Still, it’s an interesting look at what our increasingly connected future may hold.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.



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162 Talking Heads Have Weighed In On Trump vs. McCain

July 21, 2015 by  
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Ever since Donald Trump claimed Saturday that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) isn’t a war hero — or, maybe, is one only because he was captured in Vietnam — cable networks have covered those remarks without pause.

The national media are obsessed with Trump, who has ridden the feedback loop of press attention to the top of the Republican presidential primary polls. Trump’s comments last month about Mexican immigrants being “rapists” drew extensive coverage as well. But the McCain swipe seemed to send TV bookers into a unique frenzy.

Over four days, The Huffington Post found 162 people — rival presidential candidates, other politicians, strategists, analysts, journalists and former prisoners of war — have been asked to offer their take on Trump’s comment and/or how it will affect the 2016 primary.

Not included in the list is White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, whose take on the fracas was broadcast when he delivered it during his daily briefing. Nor are MSNBC viewers, who were polled on Monday as to whether the McCain comments made Trump unpresidential.

All told, 20 current and former lawmakers were asked to address L’Affaire Trump. Trump himself called in to ABC’s “This Week” and “Fox & Friends” to respond, as well as commenting on camera on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.” McCain went on air too, as did two of his children.

Here is the complete list, compiled through a search of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and the broadcast network Sunday shows from noon Saturday through noon Tuesday, using TVEyes. The list doesn’t include hosts, unless they weighed in as a guest on another program.  

  1. Alan Colmes, radio host
  2. Amber Smith, Concerned Veterans for America
  3. Amy Holmes, MSNBC contributor
  4. Ana Navarro, CNN commentator
  5. Andrea Mitchell, NBC News
  6. Angela Rye, Impact Strategies
  7. Ann Coulter, conservative commentator
  8. Anthony Terrell, NBC News
  9. Barry McCaffrey, retired general
  10. Ben Domenech, The Federalist
  11. Ben Ferguson, host of “The Ben Ferguson Show”
  12. Ben Sasse, senator from Nebraska
  13. Benjy Sarlin, MSNBC
  14. Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast
  15. Bill Kristol, Weekly Standard
  16. Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico
  17. Bob Cusack, The Hill
  18. Bob Kerrey, former senator from Nebraska
  19. Bob Vander Plaats, CEO of The Family Leader 
  20. Brad Woodhouse, Americans United for Change
  21. Bret Baier, anchor of Fox News’ “Special Report”
  22. Brianna Keilar, CNN
  23. Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analyst
  24. Caitlin Huey-Burns, Real Clear Politics
  25. Carl Cameron, Fox News
  26. Carl Higbie, former Navy SEAL
  27. Charles Blow, New York Times columnist
  28. Charlie Plumb, retired captain, former Navy pilot and POW with McCain
  29. Charlie Rangel, congressman from New York
  30. Chris Cillizza, The Washington Post
  31. Chris Dodd, former senator from Connecticut
  32. Chris Jansing, NBC News
  33. Corey Lewandowski, campaign manager for Donald Trump
  34. Cornell Belcher, Democratic strategist and analyst
  35. Damien Lemon, comedian
  36. Dan Caldwell, legislative director of Concerned Veterans for America
  37. Dana Bash, CNN
  38. Daniel Halper, Weekly Standard
  39. Danielle Pletka, Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute
  40. David Chalian, CNN political director
  41. David Corn, Mother Jones
  42. Deneen Borelli, Conservative Review
  43. Donald Trump (on Bill O’Reilly’s show)
  44. Donna Brazile, CNN political commentator
  45. Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post
  46. Ed Rendell, former governor of Pennsylvania
  47. Ed Rollins, Republican strategist
  48. EJ Dionne, Washington Post columnist
  49. Elahe Izadi, The Washington Post
  50. Ellis Henican, political strategist
  51. Errol Louis, New York 1 political anchor and CNN analyst
  52. Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post
  53. Everett Alvarez, retired commander and former POW
  54. Frank Luntz, pollster and Fox News contributor
  55. Geraldo Rivera, Fox News senior correspondent
  56. Gloria Borger, CNN chief political analyst
  57. Guy Benson, Townhall.com
  58. Gwen Ifill, PBS
  59. Harold Ford Jr., former congressman from Tennessee
  60. Howard Fineman, The Huffington Post
  61. Howard Kurtz, Mediabuzz host
  62. Jack Jacobs, retired colonel and NBC/MSNBC analyst
  63. Jack McCain, son of the senator and a former Navy helicopter pilot
  64. Jackie Kucinich, The Daily Beast
  65. James Rosen, Fox News chief Washington correspondent
  66. Jamie Weinsten, Daily Caller
  67. James Williams, retired major general, U.S. Marine Corps
  68. Jane Harman, former congresswoman from California
  69. Jane Timm, MSNBC reporter on the trail with Trump in South Carolina
  70. Jeffrey Lord, former political director for Ronald Reagan
  71. Jehmu Greene, former 2008 Clinton campaign adviser
  72. Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan
  73. Jeremy Peters, The New York Times
  74. Jim Jordan, congressman from Ohio
  75. Jim Webb, former senator from Virginia and 2016 presidential candidate
  76. Joan Walsh, Salon
  77. John Heilemann, Bloomberg Politics
  78. John Kirby, State Department spokesman
  79. John Leboutillier, former congressman from New York
  80. John McCain, senator from Arizona
  81. John McCormack, Weekly Standard
  82. John Pedevillano, retired lieutenant and WWII veteran
  83. John Stanton, BuzzFeed
  84. Jon Karl, ABC News
  85. Jonathan Allen, VOX
  86. Jonathan Alter, columnist and MSNBC analyst
  87. Joy Reid, MSNBC
  88. Julie Pace, The Associated Press
  89. Kathleen Parker, Washington Post columnist
  90. Katty Kay, BBC
  91. Katy Tur, NBC reporter who recently interviewed Trump
  92. Kayleigh McEnany, Political Prospect
  93. Kevin Madden, Republican strategist and CNN commentator
  94. Kristen Welker, MSNBC
  95. Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics
  96. Laura Ingraham, radio host
  97. Lauren Fox, National Journal
  98. Lee Ellis, retired colonel and former Vietnam POW
  99. Leo K. Thorsness, retired colonel and McCain’s cellmate in Vietnam
  100. Lindsey Graham, senator from South Carolina and 2016 candidate
  101. Liz Mair, Republican strategist
  102. Luke Russert, NBC News
  103. LZ Granderson, ESPN
  104. Maggie Haberman, The New York Times and CNN analyst
  105. Marc Lamont Hill, HuffPostLive host and CNN commentator
  106. Marco Rubio, senator from Florida and 2016 candidate
  107. Margaret Hoover, CNN political analyst
  108. Mark Halperin, Bloomberg Politics
  109. Mark Leibovich, New York Times Magazine
  110. Mark Murray, NBC News
  111. Mark Preston, CNN
  112. Martha Pease, brand expert
  113. Matt Lewis, Daily Caller
  114. Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union
  115. Matt Welch, Reason Magazine
  116. McKay Coppins, BuzzFeed 
  117. Megan McCain, radio host and the senator’s daughter
  118. Michael Cohen, executive vice president of the Trump Organization
  119. Michael Eric Dyson, Georgetown University
  120. Michael Needham, CEO of Heritage Action for America
  121. Michael Smerconish, radio and CNN host
  122. Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee
  123. Mike Emanuel, Fox News
  124. MJ Lee, CNN
  125. Mollie Hemingway, The Federalist
  126. Molly Ball, The Atlantic
  127. Montel Williams, TV host
  128. Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN
  129. Nick Confessore, The New York Times
  130. Orson Swindle, retired lieutenant colonel and former POW
  131. Patrick Murphy, former congressman from Pennsylvania
  132. Patti Solis Doyle, former 2008 Clinton campaign manager and CNN commentator
  133. Peter Baker, The New York Times
  134. Peter King, congressman from New York
  135. Richard Haas, Council on Foreign Relations
  136. Rick Perry, former governor of Texas and 2016 candidate
  137. Rick Santorum, former senator from Pennsylvania and 2016 candidate
  138. Rick Wilson, GOP media consultant
  139. Robert Costa, The Washington Post
  140. Robert Kiger, Trump supporter
  141. Robert Tranum, Republican strategist
  142. Robert Zimmerman, Democratic strategist
  143. Ron Brownstein, National Journal
  144. Ron Christie, Republican strategist
  145. Ruth Marcus, The Washington Post
  146. Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker and CNN commentator
  147. S.E. Cupp, CNN commentator
  148. Sally Kohn, CNN commentator
  149. Scott Brown, former senator from Massachusetts
  150. Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin and 2016 candidate
  151. Sharyl Attkisson, investigative journalist
  152. Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times
  153. Stephen Hayes, Weekly Standard
  154. Steve Deace, radio host
  155. Steve Rattner, former Obama car czar
  156. Tammy Bruce, radio host
  157. Tara Dowdell, Democratic commentator
  158. Tara Setmayer, Republican strategist
  159. Tom Cotton, senator from Arkansas
  160. Tom Friedman, New York Times columnist
  161. Tracy Potts, NBC
  162. Will Hurd, congressman from Texas

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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Republicans Have the Best Bullies

July 20, 2015 by  
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It’s too soon to know how badly Donald Trump damaged himself by belittling John McCain’s war record in Iowa on July 18. After all, George W. Bush wasn’t hurt in the 2000 South Carolina primary when his operatives rumored that McCain had an illegitimate black child, nor was W hurt in the 2004 election when his Swift Boat surrogates defamed John Kerry’s war record, nor was McCain’s campaign for the 2008 Republican nomination derailed by his own reputation as a bully and hothead.

Trump himself has until now been helped, not harmed, by insulting his GOP rivals as losers, clowns, dummies and lightweights. But his McCain slam gives other candidates an opening to mime indignation. For them, it can’t come a moment too soon, because Trump was on the verge of owning the machismo brand.

My fantasy: Trump’s rise must have infuriated Chris Christie, who thought he had a lock on schoolyard bullying. It must have pissed off Ted Cruz, who’d been planning to step on Rick Perry’s glasses. Until Trump announced, Scott Walker was spoiling to steal Jeb Bush’s milk money, the way Antonin Scalia dunked Anthony Kennedy’s head in the toilet for siding with the liberal kids on gay marriage. Rand Paul was ready to rip Marco Rubio a new one; Mike Huckabee was fixing to send Lindsey Graham to the fainting couch; Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal and Ben Carson were jostling to pull Hillary Clinton’s pigtails.

But then along came The Donald — the king of contempt, the tower of testosterone — surging in the polls, sucking the media oxygen from the room and making the rest of the pack eat his exhaust. Gang way, Gingrich and Giuliani, look who’s the meanest dog in the junkyard now. Move over, Dick Cheney, the billionaire is the one who carries the biggest stick. Don’t believe me? Go ahead — measure my money.

Why don’t Democrats do mean? Barack Obama does more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger. (So, wisely, did McCain on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on July 20.) Bill Clinton does sly country lawyer. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren do a righteous don’t-tread-on-me, but they’re too brainy to credibly simulate know-nothing rage. New York governor Andrew Cuomo may today be as close as his party gets to a bad boy, but he’s more of a blind-quote backstabber than a proudly public pit bull.

The bully gap extends to the commentariat, too. Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Joe Scarborough and Bill Kristol are world-class taunters. Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh can bluster with the best of them. But who on the left gives a really wicked wedgie? James Carville is pretty much out there on his own.

To be sure, Trump has been trolled for years by MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell. (Disclosure: I like O’Donnell.) No way, O’Donnell kept insisting, was Trump making the megabucks he claimed NBC was paying him for “The Apprentice.” But last week, Trump called his bluff, betting O’Donnell a year’s wages that he really did have a huge, massive, bulging, really big salary. O’Donnell folded. “I like him,” he said. Real bullies don’t do contrition; they double down.

But now that Trump is widely believed to have gone too far, maybe the whole bully shtick is at risk. Trump’s rivals’ piling on means they acknowledge that a line called “too far” actually exists, and Donald Trump crossed it. Things could get interesting if the notion gets around that there’s a norm for civil discourse, and that it’s good for us.

I wonder: When ads sliming Walker’s competitors fill primary state airwaves, as they inevitably will, will the candidates who called foul on Trump call foul on the Koch brothers, whose money will have paid for them? When Graham’s rivals whisper that he’s a closet case, will any of the chicken hawks who sprang to McCain’s defense last weekend have the cojones to denounce homophobia?

Democrats and Republicans have been called the “Mommy Party” and “Daddy Party” since the early 1990s. The Mommy Party’s problem is that to win elections, it usually has to appeal to Daddy voters, too. What keeps them loyal to Daddy? He’s strong. Mommy voters want to be loved, but they also want Daddy to protect them. Bullying is deployed and understood as a proxy for Daddy’s strength.

But I can’t hear “Daddy Party” without thinking of Sylvia Plath’s poem “Daddy”:

Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.

Fascist may be going too far for what I’m talking about. But the upside of bullying — the boot in the face, which is the default choice of Daddy Party discourse — is that it’s a winning tactic for brutes. They say they’re just telling it like it is, but what they’re really doing is trash-talking each other’s junk.

The media love this; every camera adores a war. Calls for cooler rhetoric — Reince Priebus on line 2, Mr. Trump — have been haplessly ineffectual. Today, the other candidates are saying that Trump crossed a line, but they’ll all be back on the demagoguery trail before you can say Ted Nugent.

Our political commons has become a middle school playground and a place to put on freak shows. Much of public discourse is dispiritingly putrid. How does that strengthen America? Maybe it’s not so bad if bullies on the Mommy Party’s bench are scarce.

Right now, 4.67 billion miles from Iowa, the New Horizons spacecraft is sending us pictures of Pluto. It took 15 years to fund, design, construct, launch and get it there. The collective genius required for that to happen, not to mention for enabling most people on the planet to hold a photo of Pluto in their hands, is a miracle. We are capable of achingly beautiful things. So why do we tolerate — why do we reward — a politics that fouls the nest our Founders gave us?

This is a cross-post of my column in the Jewish Journal, where you can reach me at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.



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Capture Life in Your Soul — Not Your Smartphone

July 19, 2015 by  
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“Once, there was a man who filmed his vacation.
He went flying down the river in his boat
With his video camera to his eye, making a moving picture of the moving river
Upon which his sleek boat moved swiftly toward the end of his vacation
He showed his vacation to his camera, which pictured it, preserving it forever:
The river, the trees, the sky, the light, the bow of his rushing boat
Behind which he stood with his camera
Preserving his vacation even as he was having it
So that after he had it he would still have it
It would be there. With a flick of a switch, there it would be
But he would not be in it. He would never be in it.”

This poem from Wendell Berry beautifully ponders a question that’s been resonating within my own heart lately: Does our addiction to capturing the moment with external devices detract from the vacation experiences we wearily yearn to attain?

2015-07-20-1437351693-2100750-GunnarNorback.jpg
Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park, Maine. Gunnar Norback photo.

Unity College, my alma mater, is conveniently (dangerously?) located just over an hour from Acadia National Park. Last September, my friends and I sojourned to the Park for a day of outdoor adventuring.

Only my second visit, I reveled in the warm, sunny afternoon. It was a stark contrast to my prior experience — a cold and windy day in early May. Then, we had the park to ourselves. This day, however, hundreds of cars clogged the parking lots. We shared the outstanding view from the pale rocks of Cadillac Mountain with their passengers?–?observers who witnessed their surroundings with not their eyes, but their iPads and Smartphones. In fact, I was almost mowed over by a middle-schooler boy stumbling aimlessly around the summit, bleary eyes glued to his phone’s screen.

This disconnect from the present really bothered me. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the appeal of social media, its addictive tendencies, and how its use can impede our full satisfaction of time off.

It was far from the first time that I’ve witnessed people so enthralled with their phones that they inadvertently remove themselves from their environment. Last summer, I worked behind the front desk of Hartwick Pines, one of Michigan’s busiest state parks. Inside the visitor center were many display cases. A window overlooked a lively bird feeding station. There, I noticed a disconcerting trend: The first thing to enter the building were screens?–?screens connected to park patrons of all ages who seemed disconnected from anything happening outside the screen. It seemed that generating physical proof of their experiences rather than actually living that experience in the moment, to its full potential, was prioritized.

It’s distressing that so much of our time is spent squinting through screens, screens that promise to make life better, make life streamlined?–?but indeed make it complex, cluttered, a blur, numbing, less meaningful. Social media has its time and place, but we need to be vigilant to relegate it to a low priority in our lives.

We need breaks from routine to combat the stress of our hectic lives. For as long as people have been bound to careers, vacations have been a revered way of escape. That escape can be from routine, from obligations, from familiarity. The best vacations will increase one’s understanding of their world and bring a chance to help us reconnect with ourselves.

Vacations extend beyond simply the physical. We need to also be in a different mental place to fully reap the benefits of vacation. Our lifestyles promote information inundation. Our brains need a chance to declutter. However, it takes intentionality to prevent vacation from becoming simply another permutation of stress?– ?the stress that comes from painstakingly documenting every moment and memory on social media.

It’s ironic. We often visit social media sites for a “break”, but these sites represent a significant stressor to many people. Social media brings stress into our lives because it makes us feel that it’s mandatory to both (a) keep up with our friends and (b) maintain an ideal image to our followers. If I’m not producing anything for the public eye, I am nothing. Right? Our fetters to social media have the capacity to compromise the very escape we crave in our vacation experience, if we allow them to.

2015-07-17-1437162793-5058779-grandsjardins.JPG
Parc national des Grand-Jardins, Quebec. Alison Vilag photo.

“I was simultaneously tweeting, Facebooking, and Instagramming both photos and hyperlapse videos. That vertical climb got many likes. But, I have to say? — ?I don’t remember much of it.” These are the words of Jo Piazza, a writer for Yahoo! Travel. Here she describes a weekend trip where she was focused more on the actual documentation of the event than enjoying her surroundings. She was in Arches National Park, yet her most vivid memories seem to be connected to her stress of generating physical evidence of her adventure.

What happened to her burning lungs and legs, or the dusty air, or the scream of soaring Red-tailed Hawks? The sensory details from her experience were forgotten in her frenzy to document her journey.

In contrast, to Piazza’s hiking experience, David Roberts writes about the pinnacle from his year of disconnect from social media. At the time, Roberts was writing for Grist Magazine and the nature of his job mandates a high connectivity to social media.

He received a wake-up call the night he asked his son, “What does Daddy do for a living?” His seven-year-old responded, “All you do is sit on your computer and say, ‘blah blah blah Congress, blah blah blah Mitt Romney!” This statement served as a wake-up call of sorts for Roberts, who used social media so much that he’d on occasion exceeded Twitter’s post per day limit. Roberts vowed to give his brain a break and step away from social media for an entire year.

During this period, he and his friends spent a month in a ski lodge and Roberts reminisces, “It took a while for us to relax into just being, with nothing else to do. We snowboarded, played cards, cooked meals, and laughed at inside jokes. It doesn’t sound like much, but it has more weight in my memory than any number of online dramas.”

Disconnecting forces your mind to process an event differently than if you’re simply going to tweet it. We are able to feel more joy from an adventure when we ponder it beyond calculating how it will appear in a Facebook status.

During 2013, I lived in Palawan, Philippines, with no access to social media. Seven months into that stint, I met my family in Kauai. It was the first time I’d seen my family during that time — and also the first time that I’d had access to social media. It was extremely stressful to try and document everything in the name of sharing on social media. So stressful that when we hiked the Kalalau Trail for two days, I was relieved to be forced away from the pressure of social media and concentrate on what was most important? — ?quality time with my family and absorbing the place around me.

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Kalalau Trail, Kauai. Alison Vilag photo.

It should seem obvious that social media should be left at home with other responsibilities. So, why can’t we step away from the infatuation? The simple answer is that we crave attention. Social media provides a means to document social life, build identity, create networks, share experiences. But, it goes beyond simple documentation.

At least subconsciously, we use social media as means of exhibitionism. With each mark of affirmation from other users ?– ?shares, likes, comments on our content ?– ?the part of us craving instant gratification and rewards is fed. When that constant feed is severed, we get bored. And, boredom breeds unhappiness.

The more things pulling at our attention, the less capacity we have to meaningfully engage in each activity. We become more disconnected, bored and unhappy, yet we keep logging on to social media and falling victim to its addictiveness.

How many of us do actually use social media during our vacations? According to Mashable, 80 percent of vacationers use their smartphones, with 70 percent of those people using their devices to post on social networks during those vacations. Reasons for this include “staying connected so they don’t miss out” and even the less-benign “making friends jealous with travel updates” But, who is really missing the vacation? We are.

Although social media feels good to the part of us that constantly craves validation and approval from outside sources, unplugging is vital. Huffington Post says that the more time you spend disconnected from social media, the better your mood, relationships, and overall health. When someone is using a device to connect to social media, that user has an absent presence. This means that the user is shutting off the outside world, having a physical presence in one place yet a mental presence in one entirely different.

It’s hard to experience what’s all around you when you’re spending every moment with your eyes glued to a screen. Capture life in your soul — not in your smartphone!

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Gunung Mulu National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia. Alison Vilag photo.

Don’t vacations emphasize escape and relaxation? It’s unnecessary, harmful even, to always prioritize productivity or measure ourselves to other peoples’ standards and expectations. Although we live in a world that tells us the off switch has ceased to exist, it does. We just have to be intentional about turning? — ?and keeping? — ?it off to get the most out of our breaks.

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Manistee River, Deward, Michigan. Alison Vilag photo.

One weekend last July, I found myself in my solo canoe, paddling down a beautiful river in northern Michigan. Each stroke of the paddle took me farther away from 4G coverage, and as the bends unfolded behind, the purpose of the trip?–?and my outlook on life?–?became more clear.

Because of the circumstance, I was forced to reach out to the people around me when I needed help or information. And ?I remember vividly the details of the journey — the smell of basswood blossoms through the fog-cloaked riverbanks, the raccoon family I startled as I cleared a bend, the feeling of being in a mayfly snowglobe during a tremendous dusk hatch.

That fall, when I returned to the stress and demands of school, those memories carried through. Vacation is essential to our psychological and physical well-being. To completely maximize this healing, we must first disconnect in order to reconnect.

This post originally appeared on Medium.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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Trump Finally Performs A Public Service (And Poses A Hard Question for Republicans)

July 18, 2015 by  
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For most of my adult life, this semi-literate, mega-rich egomaniac out of New York called Donald Trump has pretended to be an important public figure, making an endless array of half-baked public pronouncements, slapping his name on things, and generally giving narcissistic personality disorder a bad name. Naturally, our devolutionary news media has played along with the guy all along, giving him coverage with no laugh track. It’s all been a gigantic waste of time and intellectual bandwidth.

Donald Trump on why he thinks Senator John McCain is not a war hero. Maybe “thinks” is not quite the word.

At long last, however, like the proverbial chimp with a typewriter which finally taps out a bit of Shakespeare, the would-be public figure has performed an actual public service. He has dramatically demonstrated what many have long suspected, that there is no correlation between wealth and intelligence. Actually, he may have gone too far because his latest moronic utterance seems to demonstrate a negative correlation between wealth and intelligence. And that can’t be true, right?

What did the paunchy loudmouth and putative Republican presidential frontrunner say this time? That Senator John McCain is not a war hero.

Reminded of McCain’s famous service in the Vietnam War, Trump opined: “I like people who weren’t captured.”

Well, if that’s his standard, Trump must think he’s a war hero himself. Because he sure never came within a million miles of being captured.

While the highly decorated McCain, a career naval officer, was busy flying dangerous combat missions and doing risky aircraft carrier take-offs and landings, Trump was busy dodging military service.

First, Trump got repeated student deferments. What was Trump so busy studying that he had to dodge serving in a war that he supported? Real estate. Which certainly qualifies him to discuss the dynamics of history, right?

Then, with the student dodge finally exhausted, Trump somehow got himself re-classified from 1A (physically qualified for military service) to 4F (too physically incapable for military service).

How’d he do that? Who knows? Maybe he deliberately injured himself to suddenly flunk the physical he’d passed a couple years earlier. Or maybe he just had his very rich daddy make some phone calls.

While Trump was busy learning how to manipulate his military service status and the real estate finance system, John McCain was busy serving his country and using up his luck. McCain’s luck finally ran out when his A-4 Skyhawk was blown out of the sky by a Soviet missile a half-mile above the North Vietnamese capital Hanoi.

It was McCain’s 23rd combat mission over North Vietnam. So he was already a hero before his heroic endurance as a prisoner of war for five-and-a-half years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton.

What was Trump doing? Well, he was busy feeding his face, feeding his wallet, and feeding his ego, riding out the foolish war he enthusiastically supported back in the Big Apple.

As longtime readers know, I’ve supported McCain, in his 2000 presidential campaign, and criticized him, for his latter-day penchant of seemingly wanting to intervene in every international conflict besides snowball fights in Antarctica. But his courageous military service is always to be respected. And even when his overall judgement is wrong, he has useful insights.

In contrast, Trump simply knows nothing. He has nothing to say but guff. A classic chickenhawk. As someone who volunteered for military service and was appointed to all the service academies and a number of special schools, I find Trump to be beneath contempt. As a man, he is pond scum with a penis attached.

As an intellect … well, hell, what intellect? Practically everything out of Trump’s blaring mouth is simply idiotic.

It’s often said that the world is run by C students. My observation is that the world is run by B students. (Let’s not forget grade inflation.) It’s certainly not run by A students.

Not that Trump is running the world. He’s just a mega-rich guy running his mouth.

Yet Trump is historically important in one way. (Besides the decline of the media.) He is the latest massive example of the Republican Party’s penchant for embracing aggressively stupid people.

Sarah Palin, who … oh, let’s not even get started on that egotistical waste of oxygen.

Herman Cain, he of the endless dime store platitudes and fear that China will at last get nuclear weapons.

And Trump, whose latest gems included hateful rants about all Mexican immigrants as murderers and criminals and his moronic complaints about high oil prices (oil has gone down by roughly 60 percent since June 2014).

Both big parties have big problems.

The Dems are too quick to embrace PC group think, too reluctant to honor individual initiative and excellence.

But the Republicans take the prize for fundamental dysfunctionality in a complex age of information. Their embrace of aggressively obnoxious ignorance is not just a a syndrome with them, it’s an out and out disease. It ain’t a bug, folks, it’s a feature.

While Trump continues to blather on about a military he was too cowardly to serve in and is too ignorant to discuss — something true with him of most every topic aside from how to rig a real estate deal — what leadership there is in the Republican Party has an important decision to make.

Do they want to be the party that rejects the Enlightenment — denying science in evolution and climate change, clinging to Confederate flags to the bitter and bloody end — the party of chickenhawk Know-Nothings? Or do they want to be part of the 21st century?

Facebook comments are closed on this article.

William Bradley Archive

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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Donald Trump ‘Has Never Been A Fan’ Of The Huffington Post

July 18, 2015 by  
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Business mogul Donald Trump responded Friday to The Huffington Post’s announcement that coverage of his presidential “campaign” will be part of our Entertainment section by saying he’s “never been a fan” of the site.

In a statement Friday, Trump said he is “number one in the unimportant Huffington Post poll,” referencing HuffPost Pollster, which averages over 100 public polls on the presidential race and compiles the results in one place:

 

With the first primaries still months away, polls have limited value in predicting how much of the vote any one candidate will ultimately win. At this point during the 2012 election, we hadn’t even reached the brief surges seen by Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich — all of whom did better at one point than Trump is faring now. This year, the GOP field is even more divided, and with so few voters paying attention, Trump’s current strength speaks mostly to the chaos of the primary and the tidal wave of coverage his candidacy has received.

Red line is Donald Trump. Other three are Gingrich/Cain/Perry in run-up to 2012. pic.twitter.com/YDervLLShZ

— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) July 15, 2015

Polls this early in the presidential race should also be taken with a dose of skepticism because many candidates — including Trump — experience a post-announcement bump in the polls. 

Trump, whose shit-talking game is so bad it’s good, criticized “the money-losing Huffington Post,” calling it a “glorified blog” despite having shared our content in the past:

Very nice – @HuffingtonPost @pollsterpolls has me in first place at 18% and Bush second at 14% http://t.co/IXCbCtDUIp

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 13, 2015

“The only clown show in this scenario is the Huffington Post pretending to be a legitimate news source,” Trump’s statement said. “Mr. Trump is not focused on being covered by a glorified blog. He is focused on Making America Great Again.”

Wow, Huffington Post just stated that I am number 1 in the polls of Republican candidates. Thank you, but the work has just begun!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 3, 2015


Via Huffington Post "Congrats, America! Donald Trump Is Now A 2016 Presidential Front-runner" http://t.co/X1YYz7x002 by Igor Bobic

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 2, 2015

HuffPost announced Friday that coverage of Trump would no longer treat him as a legitimate presidential candidate.

“After watching and listening to Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy for president, we have decided we won’t report on Trump’s campaign as part of The Huffington Post’s political coverage,” HuffPost Editorial Director Danny Shea and Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim wrote. “Instead, we will cover his campaign as part of our Entertainment section. Our reason is simple: Trump’s campaign is a sideshow. We won’t take the bait. If you are interested in what The Donald has to say, you’ll find it next to our stories on the Kardashians and The Bachelorette.”

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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The Bob & Chez Show Podcast: Our Exclusive Interview with InfoWars Conspiracy Theorist and Alex Jones Sidekick Dan Bidondi

July 17, 2015 by  
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Today’s topics include: InfoWars Conspiracy Theorist and Alex Jones sidekick Dan Bidondi joins us for the hour to talk about Common Core, dildos, the Boston Marathon bombing, journalism, Sandy Hook, 9/11 Truth, abortion, the Second Amendment, religion, terrorism and much more.

Download the mp3 (60 minutes, 24mb)
Listen and subscribe on iTunes (it’s FREE!)
Support the show at Patreon

The Bob & Chez Show is a funny, fast-paced political podcast that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The twice-weekly podcast is hosted by Bob Cesca (Salon.com, The Huffington Post, The Daily Banter, The Stephanie Miller Show), and CNN/MSNBC producer turned writer Chez Pazienza. Follow the show at www.bobcesca.com with special thanks to Steve Duckett.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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Digital Relevance Often Comes in a Package

July 16, 2015 by  
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Note: Bob Pearson, president and Chief Innovation Officer at W2O Group, author of “Pre-Commerce: How Companies and Customers Are Transforming Business Together,” joined me in writing the following post.

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Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results — that’s the definition of insanity. Well, at least according to Albert Einstein.

Though it would be quite unwise to call all content marketers insane, it’s clear that we’re actively living out Einstein’s definition in the online world: Consistently producing content in the same way and expecting more influential viewers, fans and followers to sing our respective praises.

It’s true — with the growing importance of social media and digital communication, consumers want information and they want it now. To keep up and remain relevant, people and businesses need to constantly be participating in the conversation. And in their minds, this means contributing a new fact, photo or piece of information to their audiences any chance they get.

But this fear of obligation has made many lose their way, focusing more on quantity of content rather than quality and delivery.

In many cases, it seems we’re creating websites for the sake of creating them, writing whitepapers for the sake of writing them and designing infographics because we’re convinced our audiences will agree that they look cool. Often times, they go unnoticed altogether.

As Andrew Bowins, Head of Corporate PR and Communications at Samsung Electronics America, has aptly noted: PR is quickly becoming a deli-counter experience. And consumers are full beyond belief. There’s no room in their stomachs for more content — unless it’s deliciously packaged and delivered in the right way.

And that’s where a new opportunity exists.

It’s not the content that is completely lacking, but rather the way in which such information is presented and made available. As we all know, a brand’s online content should be consistent, succinct, engaging and relevant to the wants and needs of consumers. Users should be able to consume it anytime, on any social channel or site of their choice.

A few brands have successfully figured this out and are creating great content, packaging it in a user-friendly manner, and delivering it in a beautifully-wrapped bow.

Take Netflix, for example, which has proven it has content packaging down to a science. By using highly effective formulas and algorithms to analyze viewing habits, the company is able to customize each user’s video-watching experience. According to Joris Evers, vice president of communications at Netflix, “there are 33 million different versions of Netflix,” each packaged and delivered based on the customer’s specific interests and preferences.

Netflix is at the forefront of what we call “audience architecture,” a process where you know exactly who your audience is, what they care about, and then use this information to make what they desire available. You don’t talk at them, but rather learn from them and align your content to the behavioral clues you’ve been provided.

But this doesn’t just stop at Netflix. When it comes to news, presenting stories in an easily digestible way is being mastered by Vox.com. The explanatory outlet capitalizes on the notion of simplicity. By presenting the news in simple card stacks, Vox.com makes even the most daunting news stories seem easy to analyze, dissect and share. Its methods have clearly made it a winner: Vox.com beat out Politico — a publication seven years its senior — for unique visitors last July.

For many brands, however, the deli-counter experience — that more is usually better — is quickly becoming commonplace. Instead, a conversation about how we’re packaging, analyzing and delivering information in a manner that creates unique experiences for our audience is long overdue. This is the crux of a new platform by integrated marketing firm NextWorks that packages videos, links, transactions and any other major pieces of content in portable websites. The presented information is the same across all channels, allowing for a syndicated form of content that can be dynamically updated based on what customers are interested in. With this platform, companies can share a full story directly to any social channel, website, or intranet.

Learning what consumers want, delivering the content where they want it and then interacting with them based on what they like or dismiss is the future of content marketing.

If companies don’t move to change how they currently approach this, potential customers will be lost, loyal fans will become disengaged, and brand credibility could easily begin to depreciate. Worst case scenario, we might begin to experience a new form of digital insanity.

Throwing more content at the problem won’t solve it. The solution and new approach: placing equal emphasis on the “how” and “why.”

The “what” and “who” will greatly appreciate it.

– This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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